DrPH Student Combines Interest in Environmental, Occupational Health and Policy as Research Scholar

Ans Irfan, MD, MPH, a DrPH student in the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH), has been named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar. The national health policy leadership development program includes second-year doctoral students in any academic discipline who want to apply their research to help build healthier and more equitable communities. The program is affiliated with the Milken Institute SPH’s Department of Health Policy and Management.

“We are very proud to have Dr. Irfan in our Department and the scope of his research is deeply important,” says Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS, the EOH chair. "We look forward to learning the results and seeing the impact of his research."

“I am interested in exploring the operationalization of ‘work’ as a social determinant of health, particularly at the intersection of climate change and occupational health,” says Dr. Irfan—who invites everyone to call him Ans. “The location of one’s work should not determine one's quality or span of life. The essence of my interdisciplinary research is the exploration of occupational health from an equity perspective, and the role of climate change in exacerbating occupational health disparities.” David Michaels, PhD, an EOH epidemiologist with extensive experience in research, regulatory and public policy, who served as the United States Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health from 2009 to January 2017, is working with Dr. Irfan and serving as a mentor.

Dr. Irfan earned his MPH in EOH at GW, and he received the Chair’s Award for Environmental Health Science and Policy in 2017. “During his time in the EOH department, Ans was always around because he helped out with so many classes and projects,” says George Gray, PhD, who served as the department’s interim chair until this fall. “He is a great guy who is widely loved in the department.” 

Last fall, Dr. Irfan began his DrPH studies in Public Health Practice at Tufts University School of Medicine (where he received a full scholarship). He returned to GW this fall. In addition to his studies, he currently serves as a professorial lecturer for both EOH and the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences. He teaches the EOH Department’s Social Change & Climate Change (PubH 6133) class and the Biological Basis of Public Health (PubH PUBH: 6001) for XNS. In addition to being trained as a physician (he earned his MD at Xinjiang Medical University in China and speaks fluent Mandarin in addition to five other languages including English), he completed studies in International Migration Studies and Climate Refugees at Georgetown University.

Dr. Irfan’s accomplishments also include receiving the American Public Health Association’s James P. Keogh Scholarship in 2018 and being named the Climate Change Impacts and Responses Research Network’s Emerging Scholar Award in 2018. He regularly presents at national and international conferences. In 2017, he was a U.S. Delegate at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23), and he was selected for representation at the international climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

Dr. Irfan credits Michaels and Beth Rosenberg, ScD, MPH of Tufts for their unwavering support and encouragement during the rigorous application process for the prestigious RWFJ Health Policy Research Scholar fellowship.